Marty Anstey: Some History
Being a Sysop
In 1993 I was introduced to the realm of the Bulletin Board System, or BBS for short. From 1992 thru 1996 I ran a number of BBS's, including Barney's DeathCamp, a very popular BBS in the Vancouver area with over 800 users, and Eagle Communications, the official BBS for my high school.
Being a high school student I didn't have much money, so for much of it's existence Barney's Death Camp BBS ran from a single 2400bps modem (which was upgraded later, thankfully). The computer it ran from, much like many BBS's of that era, was my home computer: an IBM PS/2 system with a 20MB hard drive (yes, that's megabytes!).
To work around the severe lack of storage space for files, I came up with a unique solution: BBS software was fairly sophisticated by that time, and many packages included a means to access files from the (then massive) storage capacity offered by CD-ROMs. The software could be instructed to copy a selected file from the CD to a temporary directory on the local hard drive, where it was then transferred to the user. In this way, many users could benefit simultaneously from a BBS with an attached CDROM.
Of course, I couldn't afford a new modem in those days, let alone a new hard drive or CDROM system for the BBS. My cousin, however, had an IBM XT system with a 10MB hard drive that he wasn't using, so I built a very long parallel cable that stretched from one side of the room to the other to connect the two systems, much like a primitive LAN. I wrote some software that would transfer a selected file from the second machine when requested by a user, so I was able to store the bulk of the file library separate from my main computer.
My high school years turned out to be immensely productive.
While I was a student in high school, I was commissioned as a paid assistant for the computer lab. This turned out to be a lot of fun, since I was frequently pulled out of class to help the computer teacher during busier times, or when there were major virus outbreaks - which happened a lot in those days.
With a virus outbreak occuring nearly daily, I became so used to dealing with infections that I became somewhat of an expert on the subject. My prior knowledge and experience with assembly language came in handy and I routinely disassembled many of these nasty critters to understand their inner workings - particularly to determine their infection mechanisms, and to see if they carried a harmful payload.
I went to enormous measures (within our means at the time) to lock down the computers to limit the spread of viruses, but still some managed to slip by. I later found out that some students (not surprisingly) intentionally introducted infected programs to these computers, but no matter how severe it was my trusty AV disk - loaded with a battery of antivirus tools, debuggers, memory inspection tools, disassemblers and a host of other low-level utilities - would make short work of the infection.
Eventually, with several precautionary measures in place we finally managed to gain an upper hand on viruses entering the network, and to contain the few that managed to slip past the perimeter - no small feat in a primitive computer lab full of malicious students!
Shortly thereafter, I applied my knowledge of viruses to develop my own antivirus utility that would quickly scan a system for infections. It worked extremely well and had a very high detection rate, and it even found use in my day-to-day work. However, I never pursued devloping it into a commercial product due to lack of funds and resources - after all, I was only 16 years old at the time.